These recordings were made around 60 years ago by the Amsterdam
Duo, Nap de Klijn (1909-79) and Alice Heksch (1912-57). They’d
formed their ensemble in 1945 and had forged a strong reputation
for performing contemporary Dutch music in addition to the classics.
As well as their duo, de Klijn founded the Netherlands String
Quartet in 1952; its second violin was Jaap Schröder, the
violist the veteran and experienced Paul Godwin, and cellist
Carel van Leeuwen. I can strongly recommend their Dvořák
quartets on Globe GLO 6036, and their Mozart recordings on the
same label too. They were an outstanding quartet.
De Klijn and Heksch first saw what was then called the ‘Mozart
piano’, made by Johann Andreas Stein, in 1950. They asked
for a copy and first performed with this fortepiano in October
1950. The following year they made the first of their Mozart
sonata recordings, followed by more in 1953 and in 1955 Heksch
recorded some solo works. They came out on Philips LPs, some
licensed to Epic, and from these dozen or so discs, Forgotten
Records has compiled a slimline 2 CD set.
They must have come as a welcome sound when released and still
sound fresh, imaginative and enjoyable. De Klijn was quite a
clement Mozart player; he doesn’t make a big sound, which
is fine, and is happy to phrase with refinement and a certain
reserve. Pre-war the Gold Standard in these works on disc was
set by the Szymon Goldberg-Lili Kraus duo. They are much more
incisive, both rhythmically and tonally, and Goldberg’s
bowing is constantly revealing colours from the music that his
contemporaries skated over. The changing moods of the music,
aided by incisive rhythm and rapid coloration, are best served
by them. But the Amsterdam Duo’s priorities are more in
the other direction. Their give-and-take is exceptionally fine,
and the fortepiano was well balanced against de Klijn’s
fiddle, albeit it seems to have been the case that the engineers
put him quite close up against the microphone. This imparts
a slightly razory quality to his playing. Certainly the more
obviously suave pairing of Wolfgang Schneiderhan and Carl Seeman
in their DG recording of a few years later, takes up another
stance altogether, not least given Heksch’s adoption of
In short, the Amsterdam Duo’s performances are attractive
and sensitive. Slow movements are slow, measured, and affectionate.
What is lacking from time to time is the kind of incisive approach
to rhythm that animated Goldberg and Kraus’s 78 performances
of the sonatas - they didn’t record them all.
For the solo piano works Heksch left the fortepiano for her
more accustomed pianoforte. She plays a rather odd array of
things, the Rondo alla Turca and the Minuets from
Sonata K282 among them. Her playing is highly musicianly, from
what one can tell, and very well worth reviving.
Incidentally de Klijn also recorded three Beethoven sonatas
with Heksch, Brahms’s op.108, the Pijper First with Henkemans,
and the Wijdeveld 1952 sonata with Frid on a Radio Nederland
disc. I’m pretty sure he also recorded under the moniker
Globe 6039 contains five of the violin sonatas included in this
set; K301, 204, 306, 378 and 379. It’s a very slightly
‘warmer’ transfer, somewhat softening that razory
tone on the original LPs. As usual there are no notes with this
Forgotten Records release.